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The Lakeland Derby - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > Places to Visit

When traveling to the Gulf beaches from Orlando along the I4 you will see several signs for Lakeland. For many years we just thought of it as the place that sold plastic containers until a friend told us about the Lakeland Derby.

Each Lakeland has its annual community fundraiser the “Lakeland Derby” it usually takes place the week before the Kentucky Derby about the end of April. If you are in central Florida at his time of year it is a great evening out. The venue for this is Downtown Lakeland, Lake Mirror Promenade.

It is held to provide funding for the Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine. These are medical people who provide free medical services to those who do not have insurance it really is a very good idea as in Florida there are families unable to pay for the insurance.

There is no fee to attend the Derby instead the funds are raised by sponsorship of the swan boats and little rubber ducks. When the little ducks race you can adopt and “race” one of them which basically consists of an airboat that revs its engine to blow the ducks over the finish line! Ducks are available to sponsor at $10 each.

It is a good night out just like our Derby with everyone dressing up; there are some wonderful hats on display. I believe many of the regular attendees spend weeks preparing their hats and there is a contest to pick the best on the night. We have not tried to compete because the competition is awesome.

We went about 5. oopm and were joined by many others with chairs, picnic baskets and blankets to sit on. We took small sandwiches, fruit, cheeses, crisps and dips. You will see many cooler boxes with the necessary liquid refreshments in!

If you have not bought food or have not got enough there are booths set up where you can exchange US Dollars for ' Derby Dollars' to purchase food or drinks from the vendors.

The main feature of the Derby is ten hand-crafted swan paddleboats that race against each other. Each swan will have an owner/breeder who will choose and train their own jockeys to compete for the Lakeland Derby Trophy. There is a very colourful parade to the starting post.

After the racing there is an awards ceremony where prizes are presented to the winners. The evening finishes with lots of music, dancing and a great fireworks display.

We enjoyed it when we went I hope you do to.

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